Revolver was not The Beatles' first great record, but it was the one where they truly came into their own. There were no precedents for Revolver within or outside of the band's world they just awakened and the music they made came from someplace completely new.
Each member was entirely in command here it's Lennon's strongest Beatles material ("Im Only Sleeping," "She Said She Said," "And Your Bird Can Sing," "Tomorrow Never Knows"), Paul's most effortlessly wonderful ("Got to Get You Into My Life," "Eleanor Rigby," "For No One," "Here, There and Everywhere"), George's characteristic quantum leap forward ("I Want to Tell You," "Love You To," "Taxman"), and Ringo's signature moment ("Yellow Submarine" not his best moment, but certainly a hilarious showcase for Ringo's peculiar appeal).
Everything works, and works together, though no track has anything to do with any of the others. The controlled stylistic diversity is what people want when they say that The White Album should have been a single album. You want that album? No, you want Revolver.
More and more, this record is coming to be seen as the band's best, as people sheepishly begin to acknowledge that Sgt. Pepper is a rather tedious and unpleasant affair, more gimmick than greatness. On that album, the band could not have been more conscious of making a Grand Statement, a Great Record, their Masterpiece, the Album of the Decade, etc. On Revolver, they didn't seem to know that this unfettered derring-do they were indulging was going to be a Big Deal they were just talented guys in a moment when all of them had extraoridnary inspiration. We should all be so lucky to have such a moment.
Truly, the album belongs to John, who gives it the boundary-smashing qualities for which it is so rightfully admired. Before Revolver, he'd begun to write somewhat openly, but here he is free. I'm not sure he ever recovered from this period, as the rest of his Beatletime was a lot more conscious in its intent to beguile you and demonstrate his genius.
By Let it Be he was not even capable of finishing a song, so Revolver is all the more appreciable for offering the evidence as to why we should even care about his music. He'd make some great stuff later (particularly on The Beatles), but it was here that he simply was a genius, not a guy continually trying to re-convince himself of his genius.
Paul, similarly, is caught here not hamming it up or deliberately aiming to write his generation's defining standards, but simply being Paul. For all my contempt for Uncle Paul and his endlessly shameless shenanigans, it still only takes actually sitting down with Revolver to remind myself why he is better than all of us. I may try to avoid Revolver because it refutes my every argument against him. But especially with this batch of songs, he proved capable of making sincere, warm, wonderful, timeless music, without winking.
When "Doctor Robert" and "I Want to Tell You" are the weak spots on a record, you're in the midst of a rare album indeed. The fact that these excellent songs are easy to forget next to the bigger and bolder ones shows just what kind of magic these boys happened upon in 1966.
Another aspect I admmire about Revolver is that, for the first time, there's no clear attempt to throw bones to George and Ringo by reserving space for whatever they happened to have on hand. George's songs could not not have made the album; they're stellar. And who but Ringo could pull off "Yellow Submarine," anyway?
George Martin keeps things interesting with loads of new directions, including terrific horn charts, string parts, and tape effects. And aside from "Submarine," none of the experimenting gets in the way of the songs (as it does through virtually the entirety of Pepper).
Mark of a great album: everyone has a different favorite song off it. Mine's "And Your Bird Can Sing," the best power-pop song ever made, my favorite of all Beatles songs, my favorite single snapshot of John and Paul, my favorite harmonies (on that last chorus). It's the Beatlesong I can hear with exactly the same excitement factor every single time. It's the musical equivalent of a raging boner, seductively stroked by someone thought unattainably attractive.
Revolver isn't my favorite Beatles album, but I'd be a darn fool trying to argue it ain't superb. I love to take down sacred cows, but in this case you'll find my kneeling in reverence with the other wide-eyed zealots, basking in the Lord's good light.
Review by Cokehead